Revisiting a controversial issue that has been dormant since summer, the Oak Bluffs selectmen voted Tuesday to approve a set of regulations that prohibit food trucks in the heart of downtown. Mobile food vending will be banned from all primary downtown streets, including Circuit and Kennebec avenues, according to a 10-page document which outlines a process for the permitting of takeout food licenses on a case-by-case basis.
Selectmen said the rules are intended to reduce congestion and traffic downtown and to reduce competition with neighboring storefront businesses.
Under the regulations, vending is permitted in other areas of the business district and specifically-approved public locations between the hours of 9 a.m and 10 p.m. Food trucks must situate themselves at least 40 feet from the road, and ensure any waiting lines do not block the flow of foot or vehicle traffic.
They may not locate within 200 feet of a licensed victualler without written permission.
“It’s probably a limited area but we are going to try to see what can work,” said town administrator Robert L. Whritenour on Thursday. He said he did not have a map of locations in town where food trucks would be permitted.
Selectman Gail Barmakian said they might operate at the ball field or behind the ice arena on Vineyard Haven Road.
The issue first surfaced when William Coggins, property owner of 16 Circuit avenue, approached the town for permission to operate a food truck and a retail cart on his empty lot.
Selectmen approved a license for a jewelry stand, but held off approving the food truck, saying that the town has not passed any regulations for food trucks in the downtown area.
In their assessment of the merits of a potential food truck application, selectmen will consider interference with or impact on existing businesses, traffic and public safety concerns as well as the number of mobile food vendors already licensed to operate.
Ms. Barmakian, Walter Vail and Kathy Burton voted in favor of the regulations Tuesday evening.
Gregory Coogan voted against the regulations, citing a concern that they unfairly bar food trucks from town.
“As long as it’s clear that we are essentially eliminating them from Oak Bluffs, unless you want to do business elsewhere and come into town for special events,” he said.
Mr. Santoro, who owns a restaurant in town, joined him with a nay vote, and said he shared Mr. Coogan’s rationale. He objected to the naming of streets in the regulations.
“You are discriminating,” he said. “I think this should be on a case-by-case basis.”
Mobile vendors who do business for fewer than four days per calendar year are exempt from the regulations. Vendors seeking to appear at special events must get permission from the organizers.
Christine Todd, speaking on behalf of the Oak Bluffs Association, spoke in favor of licensing food trucks during town events.
“The OBA is totally supportive of food trucks for special events, so whatever can be done to ease the process for that, we appreciate,” she said.